Communities should vote for police commanders, says IRR report

Communities should be allowed to vote for – or have a significant influence over the appointment of – their station commander‚ in order to restore faith in policing.

So says Marius Roodt‚ who has produced a report for the South African Institute of Race Relations‚ titled “Broken Blue Line”‚ which reviews the effectiveness of the police service.

Roodt also proposed tax breaks for middle-class South Africans who are paying for private security.

“The taxes that ordinary South Africans pay already fund the police who have‚ in many instances‚ shown themselves to be incapable of protecting them. Allowing security expenses to be offset as a tax break will also go some way to reducing the heavy tax burden ordinary citizens face‚” Roodt said.

“The sum private citizens already spend on protecting themselves is greater than the entire police budget… We suggest that expenses on security‚ such as electric fences or payments to a security firm‚ be made tax deductible.”

“Private security measures contribute to a safer South Africa‚ and people should be compensated for this.”

He said neighbourhood involvement in the appointment of a police station commander would help ensure the head of a local police station was directly accountable to the local community.

Roodt said: “We propose that communities be allowed to elect their station commanders at the time of local government elections‚ or‚ at the very least‚ that Community Police Forums have greatly expanded powers to appoint station commanders. That way‚ the head of your local police station will be directly accountable to your community. If the local police perform poorly‚ are corrupt‚ or – worse yet – perpetrate serious and violent crimes‚ it will be a simple matter for the community to recall the station commander and appoint another.”

The selection criteria should be widened too‚ he proposed. “Station commanders (do not) necessarily have to be serving police officers. Any sufficiently experienced person with the qualifications to run an organisation could be elected‚ allowing the community a wide pool of candidates to select from.”

Roodt reviewed instances of police being involved in crime‚ and noted that there was a low conviction rate for offenders.

“Either the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) is having to deal with vast numbers of false accusations against the police‚ or the organisation struggles to convict those who are guilty of wrongdoing‚” he said.

“Of the 9‚097 incidents or complaints reported on in the 2017/2018 financial year‚ some 1‚428 were referred to the National Prosecuting Authority‚ with only 99 resulting in a criminal conviction.”

He also noted that the South African Police Service (SAPS) annual report stated that 2‚414 SAPS employees had been found guilty of misconduct between April 2017 and March 2018. Failing to comply with or contravening an act‚ regulation‚ or legal obligation was the single largest type of misconduct that employees were found guilty of‚ accounting for some 16.5% of those found guilty of misconduct‚ said Roodt.

The IRR recommended that the SAPS adopt policy changes it has been calling for since 2015: To re-instil respect for the chain of command; create a university-educated officer corps; provide additional resources to Ipid; establish a new investigative agency within the Department of Justice; decentralise decision making in station leadership; and depoliticise the appointment process.

-TimesLIVE

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